ELMA — Elma’s offense struggled to get going early against Forks on Senior Night, but the defense was ready and able to pick up the slack.
The Eagle defense dominated the line of scrimmage for much of the game and forced five Spartan turnovers en route to a decisive 30-7 victory on Friday night at Davis Field.
The win moved Elma (4-1, 5-3) into a tie with Rochester and Tenino at the top of the Evergreen 1A League standings and secured the Eagles’ spot in the post-season.
Elma gained just 18 yards in its first three drives, all of which ended in punts.
However, the Eagle defense prevented Forks from scoring while the offense found its rhythm. Elma took over twice on downs, blocked a field goal and recovered a Spartan fumble in Forks’ first four offensive series.
Early in the second quarter, Ryan Collin snuck into the end zone for a 1-yard score, putting the first points on the board. The Eagles led 6-0 after the ensuing extra point attempt was blocked. Todd Swinhart rushed for 20 yards and caught a 31-yard pass from Collin on the drive to set up the score.
On the ensuing Forks drive, Kevin Farr picked off a Javier Contreras pass to put the ball back in the Elma’s hands.
The Eagles responded with a 12-play drive capped by a 28-yard field goal by Steven Persell.
On the Spartans’ next series, a Contreras fumble was scooped up by Tanner Sample — one of his two fumble recoveries on the night — who took it 25 yards into the end zone, only to have the touchdown wiped away by a holding penalty.
The Eagles got the ball at the Spartan 13-yard-line.
Two Swinhart runs later, the Eagles were celebrating another touchdown, this one a 7-yard scamper.
The extra point by Persell gave Elma a 16-0 lead, which they carried into the locker room at halftime.
Rashad Lorton scored both of the Eagles’ second-half touchdowns. The senior intercepted a Contreras pass early in the third quarter and ran it back 36 yards for a score.
He also caught a beautifully thrown, 25-yard, back-shoulder pass in the end zone from Collin in the fourth.
Elma’s defense allowed just 26 yards of total offense in the second and third quarters while the Eagles built their lead.
During that stretch, Elma’s defensive front repeatedly penetrated into the Spartan backfield and made it impossible for Forks to get anything going offensively.
“I thought it was the best physical game we’ve played this year, and against a physical opponent,” Elma head coach Jim Hill said. “I’m proud of the way our defense played tonight. Our front four guys were physical, in the backfield all night. I thought our linebackers and DB’s pursued outstanding, too.”
Forks’ only touchdown came late in the fourth quarter when the game was already well in hand, and some defensive substitutes had come in for Elma.
Contreras dashed in from 20 yards out on a designed quarterback run. Reece Moody added the extra point.
On Friday, the Eagles will host their East County rivals, the Montesano Bulldogs.